When a person has been addicted to a harmful substance like drugs or alcohol, getting through addiction recovery is not an easy road. It is even more difficult for a teen. Teens’ cognitive processing and reasoning skills are not fully developed; so, they are more apt to make bad choices and repeat self-destructive behaviors.
Teens suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol need specialized treatment from experienced professionals in order to properly detox, learn how to maintain sobriety, and how to best participate positively in their own lives. But it shouldn’t just be the medical team that helps your teen in addiction recovery.
Family and friends are an integral part of the addiction recovery process. There are therapy sessions family can attend and visiting days when seeing friends and family can give the teen a positive boost. Teens also need to know that when their detox and rehab is over, they will have a solid support system there to help them stay sober.
So, it is essential that friends and family are there not only after treatment, but during treatment. The 5 ways you can support your teen include participating in family therapy, offering your input to create the optimal treatment plan for your teen, making necessary changes at home, offering much needed support, and caring for yourself.
A good addiction recovery treatment center makes family therapy an essential part of any teen’s addiction recovery. Treatment centers make family involvement a priority, whether through weekly therapy sessions, periodic parent discussions, multi-family group therapy, or home visits. This helps your teen make positive, life-long changes through therapy and keeps you up-to-date on where your teen is with his or her addiction recovery.
Family dynamics have changed radically over the past several decades, impacting the way we behave as a family unit and the roles we each take on. The modern family unit includes single-parent families, cohabiting couples and children, gay and lesbian marriages, and many other configurations. But regardless of the ways the family unit changes, family therapy is still critical to substance abuse treatment. Research tells us that addiction recovery treatment that includes family therapy works far better than treatment that does not.
Addiction of any member of the family puts family members under a great deal of pressure. Addiction can disrupt routines and cause unsettling experiences for everyone. Sometimes, family members can develop unhealthy coping mechanisms as they try to maintain balance in the home. The family unit can become a fragile and dysfunctional one that can sabotage the teen’s addiction recovery.
Kids in the home are particularly affected by addiction. Kids exposed to a sibling’s substance abuse can suffer from loss of normal development and a higher risk for physical, emotional, and mental health problems. It is critical that children in the home with an addicted sibling get the necessary attention and love that could very easily be taken away from the heightened, more immediate needs of the addicted teen.
When your teens enter an addiction recovery treatment center, therapists and staff will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan for your teen based on their individual diagnoses and what addiction they are being treated for. It is essential that you provide input for your teen’s treatment plan so he or she can receive the most effective course of treatment. You know your teen’s learning curve and ability to listen; share these insights with the care team for the best treatment plan possible.
Successful addiction therapy is supported heavily by positive and frequent family involvement. The support that a family offers to a teen in addiction recovery is crucial to that teen’s success. Take advantage of the visitation hours at the treatment center throughout the week and on weekends. If the treatment center offers educational programs for family members, take advantage of those as well.
Make Positive Changes in the Home
Your teens will learn new ways to cope while they are in addiction recovery. When they come home, they will seek to put those skills to good use. If you haven’t taken appropriate steps to design a new family dynamic, there is a chance your teen will return to addictive behaviors.
You need to make changes based on what your teen needed treatment for. If your teen was treated for an eating disorder, rethink what foods you buy and serve. If your teen was treated for substance abuse, keep all alcohol out of your house to completely avoid temptation. If your teen was treated for a video game addiction, eliminate gaming systems.
The transition to coming home after being at an addiction recovery treatment facility is going to require adjustment for the entire family, not just the teen addict. Don’t deny where they are coming home from – pretending nothing important happened only leads to the teen feeling like their addiction was nothing.
The whole family will go through a range of emotions when the teen comes home from addiction recovery. They can feel nervous, awkward and happy all at once. There may also be guilt or regret on the part of the teen addict for past events or the parents blaming themselves for not seeing the issue. The teen may be anxious about making amends to those they love and wondering if their words will be enough.
To get the homecoming off to a good start, here are some things that you can do to help your teen:
Make sure they have a space to call their own. Dealing with addiction recovery in a controlled environment like a treatment center is one thing. There, the teen would have had access to therapists 24/7 and a room for privacy. If your teen previously shared a bedroom with a sibling, rearrange things if you can to give your returning teen his or her own space.
Set clear boundaries from the beginning. Ensure that everyone in the house understands the expectations for behavior after your teen arrives home. Make lists of what you expect from each other, along with consequences for failing to meet expectations. Some of those expectations might include keeping one’s bedroom tidy, helping with chores, volunteering or looking for a part-time job, and attending 12-step meetings regularly.
Create a welcoming environment. Once your teen arrives home, treat it like the homecoming it is. Make your teen feel welcome and ensure they know that they are a valued member of the family. Show them how proud of them you are and how happy you are to have them home. These positive words are meaningful to someone who has recently become sober. They are starting a new phase of life, and the encouragement they get from family is important to them.
Include them in the family’s social plans. Taking on a new lifestyle is a challenge and learning to socialize is one of the things that a newly sober teen needs to get the hang of. Include your teen in all of your social plans. Make a point of spending time with them.
Go for a walk together or take a drive to get a special treat. Have a family game night or see a movie together.
You can also encourage them to take up new hobbies. Recovery groups (such as 12-step programs) often schedule sober activities so that people can meet. Check online for information. Encourage your teen to put some positive energy into something they have always wanted to try, like a new sport or hobby.
But most importantly, be supportive as they continue treatment. For someone in addiction recovery, treatment doesn’t stop when they come home from the facility.
Your teen needs to continue seeing a therapist on an outpatient basis and attend 12-step meetings to get support as they transition to the stresses of everyday life.
Offer your teen support
While your teen was in treatment, he or she was in a supportive environment that took them away from the stressors of daily life. This allowed them to focus solely on themselves and their addiction. Coming home after such an intense experience is overwhelming, and you need to be as supportive as possible.
Talk to your teens about treatment, what they learned about themselves and how they want to change. Help them make those changes and let them know that you are there to help them in improving their lives. Let your teen know that you are there to talk to whenever they feel themselves slipping or if they need to vent.
It is critical that you are accepting when your teen comes home. Teens who have recently left an addiction recovery facility feel as though the world is judging them. They are also constantly judging themselves. Keep criticisms to a minimum and applaud them when they do things right.
Being available for conversations with your teen is critical, but practice listening without judgment and don’t plan your responses. Repeat back what the other person has just said to you in your own words to make sure you understood (this is called active listening). Then, you can respond to what they’ve shared with you. This strategy cuts down on miscommunication and ensures that the teen in recovery feels they are understood. They need someone they can be completely honest with.
Addiction is an illness that never goes away. You must be patient. Being a recovering addict doesn’t transform someone’s personality. They are still human and will have good days and bad days. But, don’t ever let them use their addiction recovery as a crutch. They must take responsibility for every one of their actions.
One of the best things you can do for your teen is to model a healthy lifestyle that everyone in the family can match. Serve healthy meals, go to the gym together, or find something that the two of you like to do together. Physical activity and healthy eating will only enhance your teen’s recovery and give everyone in the family a healthier lifestyle.
Take care of yourself
When parents realize their teen needs addiction recovery, they may also recognize that their own behaviors have influenced their kids. Parents need to face any marital problems, substance abuse, mood disorders or other issues that could potentially contribute or have contributed to their teen’s addiction.
Physical health is vital to the recovery process. If you are a parent that is not active, you may be at risk of falling into bad behaviors that could influence your teen’s recovery. If you are encouraging your teen to be active, you need to be active. Not only does it set a good example, but the stress of having a teen in addiction recovery will wear you out.
And a body without rest is not a healthy body. Getting a full eight to ten hours of restful sleep every night is crucial to good physical health.
And mental health is just as important as physical health. Teens in early recovery report that they feel like they are nuts. This is common. After a period of substance abuse and addiction recovery, it takes time for the brain to heal and return to healthy functioning. But as the parent, you also need to check your mental health. Do you have negative feelings toward the teen in recovery? Are you resentful? Is your mental status making you irritable or touchy? If any of these is the case, seek out individual therapy to deal with those feelings in a healthy way.
Also, try to keep your stress levels at a manageable level. Stress causes anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other health problems. You cannot support your teen if you are mired in these issues. If you notice the signs of depression or anxiety, seek out the help of a therapist so you can be there for your teen when he or she needs you.
Tending to your emotional needs is a key element of caring for the self. You need to confront and cope with emotions in a healthy way. Emotional self-care means that you honor your feelings. You don’t run from them. You talk about them and you develop healthy coping skills to manage your emotions.
For the teen returning from addiction recovery treatment facilities, it is essential that they are aware of the love, support, and encouragement his or her family is offering. The family needs to be a “soft place to land” – not a place of judgment or fear.
By placing your teen into a therapeutic program at Beachside, you can ensure that he or she receives the treatment that will best help him/her to manage and overcome the challenges associated with a personality disorder and to lead a normal, healthy life into their adulthood.